19 September 2018


THE OFFICIAL BOKONE BOPHIRIMA GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER

Government launches Letsema Le Bolotse project to help farmers

by: Obakeng Maje   date:

More than 200 farmers of Bokone Bophirima province will benefit from Letsema Le Bolotse project that was launched by MEC of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development (READ), Manketsi Tlhape, on Wednesday.

Tlhape launched the project in Manamolela village in the Tswaing Local Municipality. "We launched Letsema Le Bolotse campaign to assist all farmers across the province. We have begun with cropping season and we should be preparing for the next planting season. The department is working together with all stakeholders to ensure that the Saamtrek-Saamwerk vision is implemented," the MEC told Semphete in an interview.

"We also have fertilizing and mechanical companies on board too. We want to support our farmers this year, because we could not do that after we have experienced drought and lesser harvest. The department has identified 240 farmers as beneficiaries of our packages," Tlhape said.

She added that the department has set aside R38-million to assist farmers who will benefit from Letsema Le Bolotse. Each farmer will receive a package worth R350 000, she said. "This will enable them to plough 50 hectares. The packages include seeds, fertilisers, diesel and chemicals. We will also ensure that we reach our target by bringing 10 000 hectares of fallow land back into production".

Because of the negative effects of drought on especially livestock farmers, the MEC said the provincial government has advised them to reduce the number of their livestock in order to lessen the loss. "The crop farmers were also encouraged to be on the lookout too. They need to plant or plough the type of crops that will grow even during the drought season. We will continue to bring assistance in mechanisation and inputs," she said.

Government has also engaged commercial farmers, through their organised agricultural structures, to lend a hand in ensuring that food production is secured. Tlhape said her department has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with identified farmers to donate 10% of their harvest to government.

"We have drafted the strategic plans on how to assist each other. We need to sustain agriculture in the province, so we are going to resuscitate the AgriBank that used to assist commercial and emerging farmers. The department is also planning on having its own Feed Bank," said the MEC. She said commercial farmers also agreed to impart their expertise to emerging farmers.

Tlhape said while government would like to help everyone, it was only able to reach the most vulnerable farmers now because of limited resources.

"We have developed provincial irrigation strategy through commercial farmers' inputs. The department firmly believes that the enormous way to sustain agriculture is through irrigated agriculture. We also want to emphasise that assistance is not only through monetary or reimbursement. As the department, we have also engaged with farmers' financial institutions that are their creditors. We requested them to extend the farmers' period of payment," she said.

Premier Supra Mahumapelo said the provincial government would continue to support those who need assistance to produce food. "Without food, there is no life. We need more rain so that farmers can employ more workers. As government, we need to partner with all commercial farmers through a state-owned company. We must buy a stake in their agricultural businesses so that we can work together as partners. "The provincial government works closely with emerging farmers, but we also believe that we need to buy a stake in commercial farmers. We have highlighted that matter with all commercial farmers and we will have a follow-up meeting with them," Mahumapelo said.

The Premier said a meeting would be held with North West Development Corporation (NWDC) within two weeks to look into the possibilities of buying a stake in commercial enterprises in the province. "We want to be partners so that we can have control. We will then look at our target market and capacitate black people. We will also work closely with white farmers because they have the expertise and the capital. We need to master the formula that both whites and blacks come together with a wide understanding. Whites need to understand that they are working with poor and deprived blacks who were pushed to the periphery for many years during apartheid," he said.

A Senior Agricultural Economist from The World Bank in the United State of America, Guo Li said: "Our visit is very simple and we have reached an agreement between the World Bank and the National Rural Development and Land Reform Department to provide support. "We will provide technical assistance in particular to implement the agripark programme. We are coming here to develop a better understanding and address your challenges."

One of beneficiaries, Bodirwang Lekgetho, who is a subsistence farmer said: "We appreciate the support from our government. The initiative will boost our economy and make sure that we are empowered."

Another beneficiary, Lydia Setlhare, said she has been in farming for over 30 years. "The government is showing support and we also believe that the project will come in handy. We have signed a contract with the READ department to afford them 10% of our harvest."